Copyright 2017 Gabrielle
by Gabrielle Graham at Smashwords
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book is dedicated to my sister Christine who after having gone
through all of that, now has to go through all of this.
you have managed to do so with courage, grace, dignity and laughter.
is my story of time spent with my brother Roy in the last six months
of his life. I became his unofficial carer, his Power of Attorney and
the Executor of his Will, but what I remember most was laughing with
him. I miss him, and my grief can overwhelm me from time to time but
I don’t seem to have an ongoing struggle with what was by all
accounts a most difficult time.
last thing I want to do with this story is to paint Roy as a saint.
He was a typical, painful big brother who could tease you to
distraction and would drive you crazy just for the fun of it.
I came to realize during this time is that we truly don’t know what
we mean to the people in our lives. I believe that in the last
months, weeks and days of Roy’s life he came to know how much he
was loved. Our parents had both passed away and my family’s
dedication to his well-being was truly moving to watch, as was the
endless stream of family and friends who visited at the hospital.
I look back over those six months I see a beautiful experience full
of perfect imperfections. My mistakes, insecurities and neuroses all
taught me about the truth of me. The seriousness of this situation
brought a clarity that enabled me to let go of a self-image that was
no longer relevant. I still struggle with who I am and where I fit
in in the world, but I have a better understanding of what is truly
important to me and where I want to focus my energy.
book is a story of my journey to myself and of Roy’s legacy of
December 2015 – February 2016
quote Dolly Parton in Steele Magnolias “Laughter through tears is
my favorite emotion”. I lived this across the first six months of
2016 while my brother battled his way through cancer. Sadly he
passed away on 13th
June but he left this legacy through me and my experience of walking
side by side with him.
brother was known by a number of names. He was born Brian James Owen
and was Brian to my parents and older siblings. At one time he
worked with my husband Brian and another Brian so they nicknamed him
Roy, due to being tagged the Big O (Owen) who of course is Roy
Orbison. To my nieces and nephews he was either - Uncle Briany, UBJ
(Uncle Brian James) or Uncle Roy. To me he is Roy so I will refer to
him by this name throughout this story.
have a large family, eleven in total including our parents, all
squeezed together in a small three bedroom home. My parents, Tom and
Lucy and then my siblings Peter, Kathy, Colleen, Maureen, Roy - a six
year gap - Tony, Marie, me and Chris. I never knew until someone
mentioned it in the last days of Roy’s life that he was the middle
child of nine. My comment to this statement was “Well, that
explains a lot!”
children in my family were known as “The Big Kids” and “The
Little Kids” and though Roy was officially one of the “big kids”
and I was officially one of the “little kids”, we ended up
hanging out in the same circle of friends for a number of years when
I was first married. Roy also knew my husband before I did, due to
being his football coach, so our lives were intertwined for a while,
which I think started the bond of understanding that we had with each
other throughout the last six months of his life.
and death is awful, painful, shocking and many other words that
describe the difficulties and harshness of losing someone you love to
an illness like pancreatic cancer. But, and I can’t express this
strongly enough, my experience, though it included all of the above,
was far more dominated by beauty, love, compassion, laughter, light
and meaningful memories of thousands of hours spent with my genuinely
example Roy was diagnosed on 23rd
December which seemed like a cruel time to be told and to let family
know. Just prior to a holiday that celebrates family, food, fun and a
time for us all to relax and rest a bit before the New Year, when we
start the grind all over again.
struggled and felt guilty that he had to let the family know at this
time of the year. Though it was really hard to tell everybody, and
we were all sad and scared, the bright side was that all of my
siblings in Brisbane made it for our traditional Boxing Day
celebrations and some of their kids and their kid’s kids. It felt
like every other family get together with too many lollies, too much
food and drink and loud Owen family fun.
truth is that there is never a good time to hear this news but what
it did at Christmas was to bring us all together a little tighter. It
reminded us that family is paramount and how important it is to stay
connected, be present and to embrace the great experiences that come
from being part of such a large family.
struggled with pain, tiredness and feeling overwhelmed with each
person’s reaction to the news, so it was an emotional and difficult
day which was hard for all of us. What I also remember though is my
family’s ability to make light, to laugh, be raucous and enjoy our
time together. We can choose to remember only the hard and difficult
elements of being told that our brother had cancer at Christmas.
However, included in that memory is; my siblings being there not only
to support Roy but each other, all of the kids being loud, funny and
cute, all of us being squeezed onto my tiny patio with not quite
enough chairs and staying long into the afternoon of what felt like a
usual Owen family get together.
things established themselves very early in this experience. Firstly
I learned to respect that Roy had his own way of working through the
process of this diagnosis and coping with all that came along with
this illness. Then to recognize how important it was to allow him the
space and time he needed to come to terms with it all. I needed to
respect that I also had my own way of working through his diagnosis
and that I needed space and time to come to terms with the situation.
Respect and understanding for both our needs was vital.
December moments after Roy told me his diagnosis I said “Don’t be
home alone. Come up to our place and stay with us for a while.” To
which he responded that he was okay, he had things to do and he would
come up on Christmas Eve like we had planned. I fretted all of the
next day because I felt he was all alone with the stress and trauma
of this diagnosis and initially I found it hard to let that go. Roy
stayed Christmas Eve and Night then went home at the end of Boxing
Day. Before he left I said to him “why don’t you move in here
with us while you are going through this.” He said “Thank you,
but I know that at some time in the future I will lose my
independence and I want to be independent for as long as possible.”
I respected that and did my best to make that possible, even though
at times I struggled with doubt and anxieties in the light of my own
and others’ concern of his ability to be home alone and care for
himself. I quickly came to realize that Roy was comfortable in his
aloneness. It was where he got his strength and found his comfort and
as it turned out he was at his best when he was at home.